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Monday, February 25, 2008 

Blogging can be tedious - when you resort to the ad-hominem.

On Saturday, Unity posted a critique on Liberal Conspiracy of a post by Donal Blaney (the lawyer who Guido shacked up with in threatening Tim Ireland with legal action) attacking the BBC Asian Network. The title, "It’s not the BNP but it is the next best [worst] thing…" and the opening paragraph "[T]here is a fine line between making a legitimate critique of multiculturalism and using the semblance of such a critique as a means of pandering to racist attitudes and promoting a manifestly fascist vision of society..." are clear: Unity isn't calling Blaney a fascist, but suggesting he's pandering to those sort of views.

Blaney's response was thus. Firstly, to accuse Unity directly of calling him a "racist", "homophobic" (not sure where that came from) and a "fascist"; and secondly to throw a whole variety of insults at him. Here's my attempt at summarising them all. Unity and others who disagreed with Blaney were variously:

“stupid”, “venal”, “intellectually insecure”, “onanists”, “(accused of having) intellectual weakness”, “(of secretly being) deeply unhappy”, “insecure”, “lonely”, and “bitter”.

If I missed any, happily correct me in the comments. Blaney's overall point was that responding to others' criticisms of your views was tedious when they completely misrepresented them. That Unity didn't in any way whatsoever was besides the point. In any case, misrepresenting someone's views is one thing; resorting to ad-hominem attacks in such a pathetic, say, intellectually bankrupt way, is quite another.

Blogging is all about the discourse - you can scream, shout and swear at politicians and those you disagree with, and you'll get a decent audience, as long as the invective is inventive and humourous enough, hence the success of Mr Eugenides and Devil's Kitchen, although I personally much prefer the former over the latter. You can also, like Blaney and say Iain Dale are meant to, and which I aspire towards, argue with nuance, give the opposition's side of voice either a fair go or at least attempt to prove it wrong or the worst option, while also being witty, readable and engaging. Some say blogging needs rules and clear lines of what's acceptable and what's not, and I'm a glass half-empty person on that, but one thing ought to be if not verboten then at least unacceptable, and that's personally attacking the other person purely because you either feel like it or can't respond to their argument. Blaney, on those grounds, ought to at the least be disregarded for his petulant attempt at response. It diminishes all of us who blog, and only makes it less likely that we'll be listened to in the future.

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